After Going Extinct in the Wild, the Tequila Splitfin Is Being Reintroduced

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Jan. 3 2022, Published 12:24 p.m. ET

When an animal is added to the endangered species list, taking serious conservation measures is crucial, as they can prevent extinction from being an actual death sentence. There are so many animals that have gone completely extinct in the wild, but have been brought back — and the tequila splitfin is one of them. The Mexican fish species was recently reintroduced into the wild, and conservationists are super excited to see what the future holds for them.

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“The project has been cited as an International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) case study for successful global reintroductions – with recent scientific studies confirming the fish are thriving and already breeding in the river,'' Chester Zoo, which has spearheaded the reintroduction project, said in a Dec. 29 statement as per ABC News.

“This is an important moment in the battle for species conservation,” Chester Zoo curator, Gerardo García, told the news outlet.

Keep reading for more on this exciting conservation feat.

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What is Chester Zoo's reintroduction of the tequila splitfin going to look like?

The tequila splitfin, or the zoogoneticus tequila, has been extinct in the wild for 18 years, per AP News, until now. It's finally making a comeback, thanks to time spent in captivity. In 1998, England's Chester Zoo sought out to save the small Mexican fish, however, bringing several pairs together in a laboratory to reproduce. After a few successful years of procreating, they were brought to an artificial pond in 2012 for a semi-captive stage, which created a population of 10,000 splitfins.

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Various European organizations were willing to invest in reintroducing the tequila splitfin back into their native habitat, the Teuchitlán river. Scientists researched river parasites, local bacteria, and the fish's natural predators, before they were eventually brought back in floating cages for extra protection, and to get them acclimated slowly. Although scientists had to educate locals on the importance of conserving them, they eventually got locals on board to help keep the river clean.

“When I started the environmental education program I thought they were going to turn a deaf ear to us ... and at first that happened,” Omar Domínguez, a scientist involved with the project, told AP News.

The river is now much less polluted than before, and ecosystems are thriving once again. The tequila splitfin population has expanded beyond the cages into various parts of the rivers, and will hopefully continue to repopulate, as long as things keep running smoothly.

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How did the tequila splitfin go extinct in the first place?

The tequila splitfin's extinction story is a sad one, to say the least, but it looks like things are on the up and up. According to the IUCN, the Teuchitlán River was ravaged by the aquarium trade, as poachers picked the river clean of exotic fish. A dam was also built, collapsing entire ecosystems, and the river became extremely polluted from destructive human activities. Soon, the river was almost desolate of marine life.

Hopefully local river cleanups and awareness relating to the tequila splitfin's reintroduction will deter poachers and keep waterways clean, but only time will tell.

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